Breakouts are easily the most popular superlative in Fantasy football. They cause far fewer arguments than sleepers and busts, and more importantly, they are the players that help you win leagues. The best breakouts are the players who have a legitimate chance to finish No. 1 at their position. We saw it with Lamar Jackson, Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas in 2019. If you drafted those guys, you could make plenty of mistakes in other places and still win your league. So let's start with the guys who could make the leap to No. 1 at each of the other four positions.
I don't ever get to draft Kyler Murray because people keep taking him over Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson, but Murray certainly has the upside to make the leap this year. That upside starts with the 544 yards and four touchdowns he produced on the ground as a rookie. Second year quarterbacks often improve in their passing, and Murray's improvement should only be boosted by the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. If everything goes right for the second-year signal caller, there are very few quarterbacks with more upside.
Many would argue that Austin Ekeler, D.J. Moore, and Mark Andrews already had their breakout seasons. I wouldn't disagree, but like McCaffrey last year, they could have a second breakout that's even bigger in 2020.
For Ekeler, that's because Melvin Gordon is gone and there's no other back as talented on the roster. Ekeler averaged 20 touches per game in four games without Gordon in 2019. Considering Ekeler has been one of the most efficient backs in the NFL, anywhere close to 300 touches would give him No. 1 overall upside.
Moore put up 1,100 yards at 22 years old in 14 games with Kyle Allen. In his third year with an upgrade at quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, the sky is the limit. After Thomas and Davante Adams, Moore may be the most likely receiver to lead the league in catches. All he needs is some better touchdown luck to truly make the leap.
Finally, Andrews is a prime regression candidate after scoring on more than 10% of his targets last year. While he won't repeat that, he does have enormous room for growth in the snaps and target areas. Jackson will almost certainly throw more than he did in 2019 and the team probably won't have multiple games where they're pulling their starters in the third quarter. The trade of Hayden Hurst could also open up opportunity. If George Kittle or Travis Kelce slip even a little, Andrews could be the No. 1 tight end in Fantasy.
Here are eight more breakout candidates with league-winning upside:
PHI Philadelphia • #26
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Sanders was everyone's favorite breakout before a hamstring injury cost him time in camp. Everything we know right now suggests he'll be ready for Week 1, and the Eagles still don't have anyone other than Boston Scott to share the work with. Sanders was a superstar in the second half of 2019 and we're expecting more of the same in 2020. He's a great pick early in the second round.
Kenyan Drake RB
ARI Arizona • #41
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Drake is out of his walking boot, which he said was just precautionary, so I can resume calling him a breakout for the third consecutive season. Twice in his career Drake has been trusted as a feature back. Both times he's produced as a top-10 Fantasy back. This Cardinals offense was Fantasy gold in 2019, with David Johnson, Chase Edmonds and Drake all producing elite numbers when their number was called. Like Sanders, Drake should be an early Round 2 pick.
Josh Jacobs RB
LV Las Vegas • #28
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
In terms of pure talent, Jacobs may be one of the best running backs in the NFL. Or at least one of the best runners. He was a monster before he got hurt in 2019, averaging 88 yards per game on the ground and 4.8 yards per carry. If he gets any type of boost at all in the passing game, he could be a top five Fantasy back. Even if he doesn't, an outlier Derrick Henry-type season wouldn't be all that surprising. Jacobs should be taken after Drake and Sanders, but he's a surefire second-round pick in any format.
ATL Atlanta • #18
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Ridley was a top-10 receiver after the Falcons traded Monhamed Sanu, and it feels like the only reason people aren't treating him like that now is because he missed the final three games of 2019. This is a Dirk Koetter offense, so they're all but guaranteed a consolidated attack with more than 600 total pass attempts. Ridley has room for 130 targets even if Julio Jones plays 16 games, and he has top-five upside if Jones misses time.
WAS Washington • #17
Age: 25 • Experience: 2 yrs.
No rookie wide receiver was better in 2019 than McLaurin, and that was with mostly awful quarterback play. We should expect Dwayne Haskins to improve in his second year, and even if he doesn't, Alex Smith may just be a better passer. McLaurin should have a monster target share with their lack of receiving options in Washington, and this is the same coaching staff that saw Moore's second-year breakout.
SEA Seattle • #16
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Lockett is a little older than your typical breakout candidate, but this is really only his second year as a feature receiver. Before he was injured against San Francisco late in the year, he was a top five Fantasy receiver. He's tied with Tyreek Hill for the all-time lead in yards per target, so any increase in volume, as has been hinted about in Seattle, could vault him right back into the top five. I'm thrilled to take Lockett in Round 4.
Hunter Henry TE
LAC L.A. Chargers • #86
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Like Lockett, Henry has been around for a while, but I don't think we've seen his full upside. Henry was a top-10 tight end in 2019 despite missing a fourth of the season. The Chargers will look a lot different in 2020 with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. Taylor hasn't done a lot for pass catchers in the past, but with Mike Williams injured the Chargers' target share figures to be highly consolidated. Henry is an excellent target in Round 8 and has top-three upside at the position.
Hayden Hurst TE
ATL Atlanta • #81
Age: 27 • Experience: 3 yrs.
That Dirk Koetter offense I was referencing has also dedicated 125 targets per season to tight ends. That led Austin Hooper to back to back top-six seasons, and there's reason to believe Hurst has more upside than Hooper. He's a former first round pick, and Matt Ryan says he's the most athletic tight end he's ever thrown to. Hurst should approach 100 targets this season, which gives him top-three upside. That's exactly what Hooper was on a per game basis last year.
Which players are poised for breakouts, which sleepers do you need to jump on, and which busts should you avoid at all costs in your Fantasy football league? Visit SportsLine now to get early rankings, plus see which WR is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.